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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Complete - 190/272 -
hair and body, which women use in the baths, passed through our street, and called, "Cleansing, ho!" My wife, who wanted some, beckoned to him: but as she had no money, asked him if he would make an exchange of some earth for some bran. The sandman asked to see the bran. My wife shewed him the pot; the bargain was made; she had the cleansing earth, with which she filled a dust hole I had made to the house, and the sandman took the pot and bran along with him.
Not long after I came home with as much hemp as I could carry, and followed by five porters loaded also with hemp. After I had satisfied them for their trouble, I sat down to rest myself; and looking about me, could not see the pot of bran.
It is impossible for me to express to your majesty my surprise and the effect it had on me at the moment. I asked my wife hastily what was become of it; when she told me the bargain she had made with the sandman, which she thought to be a very good one.
"Ah! unfortunate woman!" cried I, "you know not the injury you have done me, yourself, and our children, by making that bargain, which has ruined us for ever. You thought you only sold the bran, but with the bran you have enriched the sandman with a hundred and ninety pieces of gold, which Saadi with his friend came and made me a second present of."
My wife was like one distracted, when she knew what a fault she had committed through ignorance. She cried, beat her breast, and tore her hair and clothes. "Unhappy wretch that I am," cried she, "am I fit to live after so dreadful a mistake! Where shall I find this sandman? I know him not, I never saw him in our street before. Oh! husband," added she, "you were much to blame to be so reserved in a matter of such importance This had never happened, if you had communicated the secret to me." In short, I should never finish my story were I to tell your majesty what her grief made her say. You are not ignorant how eloquent women often are in their afflictions.
"Wife," said I, "moderate your grief: by your weeping and howling you will alarm the neighbourhood, and there is no reason they should be informed of our misfortunes. They will only laugh at, instead of pitying us. We had best bear our loss patiently, and submit ourselves to the will of God, and bless him, for that out of two hundred pieces of gold which he had given us, he has taken back but a hundred and ninety, and left us ten, which, by the use I shall make of them will be a great relief to us."
My wife at first did not relish my arguments; but as time softens the greatest misfortunes, and makes them more supportable, she at last grew easy, and had almost forgotten them. "It is true," said I to her, "we live but poorly; but what have the rich which we have not? Do not we breathe the same air, enjoy the same light and the same warmth of the sun? Therefore what conveniences have they more than we, that we should envy their happiness? They die as well as we. In short, while we live in the fear of God, as we should always do, the advantage they have over us is so very inconsiderable, that we ought not to covet it."
I will not tire your majesty any longer with my moral reflections. My wife and I comforted ourselves, and I pursued my trade with as much alacrity as before these two mortifying losses, which followed one another so quickly. The only thing that troubled me sometimes was, how I should look Saadi in the face when he should come and ask me how I had improved his two hundred pieces of gold, and advanced my fortune by means of his liberality. I saw no remedy but to resolve to submit to the confusion I should feel, though it was by no fault of mine this time, any more than before, that our misfortune had happened.
The two friends stayed away longer this time than the former, though Saad had often spoken to Saadi, who always put it off; for, said he, "The longer we stay away, the richer Hassan will be, and I shall have the greater satisfaction."
Saad, who had not the same opinion of the effect of his friend's generosity, replied, "You fancy then that your last present will have been turned to a better account than the former. I would advise you not to flatter yourself too much, for fear you may be more sensibly mortified if it should prove otherwise." "Why," replied Saadi, "vultures do not fly away with turbans every day; and Hassan will have been more cautious this time."
"I do not doubt it," replied Saad; "but," added he, "there are other accidents that neither you nor I can think of; therefore, I say again, moderate your expectations, and do not depend too much on Hassan's success; for to tell you what I think, and what I always thought (whether you like to hear it or not), I have a secret presentiment that you will not have accomplished your purpose, and that I shall succeed better in proving that a poor man may sooner become rich by other means than money."
One day, when Saad and Saadi were disputing upon this subject, Saad observed that enough had been said; "I am resolved," continued he, "to inform myself this very day what has passed; it is a pleasing time for walking, let us not lose it, but go and see which of us has lost the wager." I saw them at a distance, was overcome with confusion, and was just going to leave my work, to run and hide myself. However I refrained, appeared very earnest at work, made as if I had not seen them, and never lifted up my eyes till they were close to me and had saluted me, and then I could not help myself. I hung down my head, told them my last misfortune, with all the circumstances, and that I was as poor as when they first saw me.
"After that," I added, "you may say that I ought to have hidden my money in another place than in a pot of bran, which was carried out of my house the same day: but that pot had stood there many years, and had never been removed, whenever my wife parted with the bran. Could I guess that a sandman should come by that very day, my wife have no money, and would make such an exchange? You may indeed allege, that I ought to have told my wife of it; but I will never believe that such prudent persons, as I am persuaded you are, would have given me that advice; and if I had put my money anywhere else, what certainty could I have had that it would be more secure?"
"I see, sir," said I, addressing myself to Saadi, "that it has pleased God, whose ways are secret and impenetrable, that I should not be enriched by your liberality, but that I must remain poor: however, the obligation is the same as if it had wrought the desired effect."
After these words I was silent; and Saadi replied, "Though I would persuade myself, Hassan, that all you tell us is true, and not owing to your debauchery or ill management, yet I must not be extravagant, and ruin myself for the sake of an experiment. I do not regret in the least the four hundred pieces of gold I gave you to raise you in the world. I did it in duty to God, without expecting any recompense but the pleasure of doing good. If any thing makes me repent, it is, that I did not address myself to another, who might have made a better use of my charity." Then turning about to his friend, "Saad," continued he, "you may know by what I have said that I do not entirely give up the cause. You may now make your experiment, and let me see that there are ways, besides giving money, to make a poor man's fortune. Let Hassan be the man. I dare say, whatever you may give him he will not be richer than he was with four hundred pieces of gold." Saad had a piece of lead in his hand, which he shewed Saadi. "You saw me," said he, "take up this piece of lead, which I found on the ground; I will give it Hassan, and you shall see what it is worth."
Saadi, burst out laughing at Saad. "What is that bit of lead worth," said he, "a farthing? What can Hassan do with that?" Saad presented it to me, and said, "Take it, Hassan; let Saadi laugh, you will tell us some news of the good luck it has brought you one time or another." I thought Saad was in jest, and had a mind to divert himself: however I took the lead, and thanked him. The two friends pursued their walk, and I fell to work again.
At night when I pulled off my clothes to go to bed, the piece of lead, which I had never thought of from the time he gave it me, tumbled out of my pocket. I took it up, and laid it on the place that was nearest me. The same night it happened that a fisherman, a neighbour, mending his nets, found a piece of lead wanting; and it being too late to buy any, as the shops were shut, and he must either fish that night, or his family go without bread the next day, he called to his wife and bade her inquire among the neighbours for a piece. She went from door to door on both sides of the street, but could not get any, and returned to tell her husband her ill success. He asked her if she had been to several of their neighbours, naming them, and among the rest my house. "No indeed," said the wife, "I have not been there; that was too far off, and if I had gone, do you think I should have found any? I know by experience they never have any thing when one wants it." "No matter," said the fisherman, "you are an idle hussy; you must go there; for though you have been there a hundred times before without getting any thing, you may chance to obtain what we want now. You must go."
The fisherman's wife went out grumbling, came and knocked at my door, and waked me out of a sound sleep. I asked her what she wanted. "Hassan," said she, as loud as she could bawl, "my husband wants a bit of lead to load his nets with; and if you have a piece, desires you to give it him."
The piece of lead which Saad had given me was so fresh in my memory, and had so lately dropped out of my clothes, that I could not forget it. I told my neighbour I had some; and if she would stay a moment my wife should give it to her. Accordingly, my wife, who was wakened by the noise as well as myself, got up, and groping about where I directed her, found the lead, opened the door, and gave it to the fisherman's wife, who was so overjoyed that she promised my wife, that in return for the kindness she did her and her husband, she would answer for him we should have the first cast of the nets.
The fisherman was so much rejoiced to see the lead, which he so little expected, that he much approved his wife's promise. He finished mending his nets, and went a-fishing two hours before day, according to custom. At the first throw he caught but one fish, about a yard long, and proportionable in thickness; but afterwards had a great many successful casts; though of all the fish he took none equalled the first in size.
When the fisherman had done fishing, he went home, where his first care was to think of me. I was extremely surprised, when at my work, to see him come to me with a large fish in his hand. "Neighbour," said he, "my wife promised you last night, in return
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